| NEW YORK
NEW YORK May 11 Amtrak said on Thursday that it
plans to hire a private company to manage the concourse-level
areas it controls in New York's outdated and overcrowded
Amtrak will create a new development entity tasked with
selecting a management firm for its concourse areas, President
Wick Moorman said at a New York State Assembly committee hearing
The Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit - which control
their own concourse sections under long-term leases with Amtrak,
the landlord - will also be asked to oversee the new entity and
use it to coordinate operations among all three railroads,
"The status quo is no longer sustainable," Wick told
The national passenger rail company has been under scrutiny
after two recent derailments, for which it was at fault,
disrupted travel for hundreds of thousands of commuters.
Those and other disturbances have drawn attention to
problems the station's concourse-level areas, which can quickly
become crowded with delayed passengers when one disruption
ripples to other trains.
Last month, the station was crammed with commuters after a
power outage. Chaos broke out because of unfounded rumors that
someone was shooting a gun. Thirteen people were injured.
Part of the problem is growth in the region. Penn Station,
the busiest U.S. transit hub, now handles double the number of
trains it did when Amtrak took it over from bankrupt private
operator Penn Central Transportation Co. in 1976, Moorman said.
Separately, Amtrak is also addressing track problems with a
new program to expedite long-planned repairs that would
otherwise take years to complete. Large sections of Penn Station
track will be taken offline for weeks at a time this summer.
The derailments "highlight the vulnerability and the
fragility of Penn Station," Moorman said, apologizing again for
delays and disruptions.
About half the trains that roll through the station are
operated by Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), which leases Amtrak's
rails along with NJ Transit.
Amtrak is working with LIRR and NJ Transit to figure out
precisely how tracks will be taken offline and other trains
rerouted this summer. A detailed plan of outages is expected
next week, Moorman said.
The most complex, disruptive jobs that require more tracks
to be taken out of service at one time will be performed at
night, he said. Amtrak is planning to issue alerts during the
summer months to keep customers updated.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; editing by Daniel Bases and Cynthia